In a picturesque setting beside the crossing of the River Eamont in Cumbria, Brougham Castle was founded in the early 13th century. This great keep largely survives, amid many later buildings – including the unusual double gatehouse and impressive “Tower of League”. Both a formidable barrier against Scots invaders and a prestigious residence, the castle welcomed Edward I in 1300.
Brougham Castle is a medieval building about 2 miles (3.2 km) south-east of Penrith, Cumbria, England. The castle was founded by Robert I de Vieuxpont in the early 13th century. The site, near the confluence of the rivers, Eamont and Lowther, had been chosen by the Romans for a Roman fort called Brocavum. The castle is scheduled as an Ancient Monument, along with the fort, as “Brougham Roman fort and Brougham Castle”. In its earliest form, the castle consisted of a stone keep, with an enclosure protected by an earthen bank and a wooden palisade. When the castle was built, Robert de Vieuxpont was one of the only lords in the region who were loyal to King John. The Vieuxponts were a powerful land-owning family in North West England, who also owned the castles of Appleby and Brough. In 1264, Robert de Vieuxpont’s grandson, also named Robert, was declared a traitor, and his property was confiscated by Henry III. Brougham Castle and the other estates were eventually returned to the Vieuxpont family, and stayed in their possession, until 1269, when the estates passed to the Clifford family through marriage. With the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence, in 1296, Brougham became an important military base for Robert Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford. He began refortifying the castle: the wooden outer defences were replaced with stronger, more impressive stone walls, and a large stone gatehouse was added.
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Lady Anne Clifford died at Brougham Castle in 1676 and her grandson, Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet, inherited the Clifford estates. He died in 1679, and over the next five years possession passed through his three younger brothers. Under the youngest, Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet, Brougham Castle suffered particular neglect. In 1714, he decided that Appleby Castle was a sufficient residence and sold the contents of Brougham Castle for £570. Only the Tower of League was left untouched, but in 1723 its contents were also sold, for £40 By the 1750s, the castle’s only practical use was as a ready source of building material for the village of Brougham, which prospered due to investment from the Earl of Thanet. In 1794, a record of the dilapidated state of the castle noted that “much of the interior walls have lately been removed, also, for the purposes of building houses for the adjoining farmhold”.
This large strong, and magnificent edifice–now in utter ruin–stands at the confluence of the Lowther with the river Eamont, about 1½ miles from Penrith, having been in its day one of the most important of the Border fortresses. The entrance to it is along a series of arches by the river-side. One part of the ruin consists of three square towers, with the remains of their connecting wall stretching for a considerable distance towards the S.W., and terminating in a tower. In the centre of the main group rises the keep, “a lofty square tower, frowning in Gothic strength and gloomy pomp.” The turrets on its summit have disappeared, together with the parapet and galleries. The lowest storey has a vaulted stone roof with eight arches, supported by one centre shaft. It is of Norman origin, but the date of its building is uncertain. On the S. are traces of the Roman camp which stood here on the road from York to Carlisle.
From “The Castles of England: their story and structure”. James MacKenzie, 1897 p. 283 (available here